30 Sep 2011

President orders halt to Myanmar dam project

10:24 pm on 30 September 2011

The president of Myanmar has ordered a halt to work on a big Chinese-led dam project, which threatened to displace thousands of villagers along the Irrawaddy River.

In a statement read out to Parliament on Friday, President Thein Sein said construction of the Myitsone dam, Myanmar's largest hydropower project, was contrary to the will of the people and lawmakers.

The suspension is being seen as a rare victory for social and political campaigners in Myanmar, the BBC reports, and is a further indication by the new government that it wants to take account of public opinion and seek greater legitimacy.

Campaigners against the project included broad spectrum of political activists, conservationists, and academics as well as international bodies.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi had recently added her voice to the campaign.

The vast majority of the electricity produced on the dam would have benefited China and the dam had served to inflame growing anti-Chinese sentiment in Myanmar, the BBC reports.

Beijing is investing vast sums in a series of big infrastructure projects aimed at exploiting Myanmar's rich natural resources and geographic position in the region.